Listening to LGBT History
Reissues, on CD and vinyl (and, in some cases, cassette) are a common occurrence when it comes to mainstream music. There are entire record labels, such as Rhino, Light In the Attic, Legacy and Real Gone Music, among others, devoted to rereleasing albums by popular and obscure artists, often in remastered and expanded editions. Over the years, some of these labels have also included work by LGBT artists on their roster.
One of the most thrilling queer reissues of 2015 is How Far Will You Go? (Chapter Music), the first of its kind CD and vinyl compilation by “stoner-punk-disco-glam-gay” pioneers Smokey. Subtitled The S&M Recordings 1973-81, the CD collects 16 of Smokey’s self-released singles produced by Smokey’s partner EJ Emmons. What’s more, Smokey recorded and performed with stellar musicians such as the late Randy Rhoads (of Ozzy Osbourne fame), James Williamson (of The Stooges) and Tin Machine men Hunt and Tony Sales.
Smoldering lead singer John “Smokey” Condon, who looked great in leather, filled his songs with queer content. Just take your pick from “Miss Ray,” “Leather,” “Strong Love,” “Hot Hard & Ready,” the doo wop of “Ballad of Butchie & Claudine,” the fiery funk of “How Far Will You Go…?,” the vintage disco of “Piss Slave” and “DTNA”(which stands for dance the night away), and the new wave cover “I’ll Always Love You.” A must-have for music lovers, gay and straight. (The LP contains 11 tracks as well as a card with a code to download five digital bonus tracks.)
Gay men of a certain age (or perhaps any age) swoon at the mere mention of the name Johnny Mathis. So you can imagine the pearls and hankies being clutched when he sings. The four disc set The Singles (Columbia/Legacy), released to coincide with Mathis’ 80th (!) birthday, compiles all 87 of the timeless crooner’s non-LP singles, from 1956 to 1981, including “Wonderful! Wonderful,” “Chances Are,” “Wild Is The Wind,” “When Sunny Gets Blue” and “The Twelfth of Never,” as well as numerous Christmas favorites.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that somewhere there is an endless supply of Dusty Springfield musical ephemera. It seems that way because in the last few years there have been a rash of reissues and compilations. Like the aforementioned Smokey disc, Dusty’s Come For A Dream: The U.K. Sessions 1970-1971 (Real Gone/Atlantic/ Rhino) collects “long-lost” recordings from British recording sessions that were meant to be “a complete album.” The missing piece from Atlantic Records period, the songs here were supposed to become See All Her Faces, an album that was released in the UK, but not in the US. The good news is that now everyone has a chance to hear Dusty’s renditions of songs including “A Song For You,” “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” “Yesterday When I Was Young,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?” and “O-o-h Child,” to name a few.
In her lifetime, Lesley Gore, who died in early 2015, topped the Billboard charts, appeared on Batman, was nominated for an Oscar and came out as a lesbian. In the midst of all that activity, she continued to write and record and the CD reissue of her 1972 MoWest album Someplace Else Now (Real Gone/Motown/Universal) is one such example. Definitely an album of its time, more Helen Reddy than Joni Mitchell, the songs deal with serious subjects such as suicide (“She Said That”) and relationship trouble (“What Did I Do Wrong”). There is also a breeziness to tunes including the title cut and “Don’t Wanna Be One.”
Jack Curtis Dubowsky is one of those queer musicians who seem to have his hand in almost every pot. Dubowsky, who has made his name in the world of film score composition as well as contemporary classical music, was also the creative force behind the trio Diazepam Nights on its 1989 self-titled queer chamber pop De Stijl debut. Add to that the fact the he owns and operates the De Stijl Records label, reissuing the Diazepam Nights album and you have the makings of a mogul. Helot Revolt, Dubowsky’s other musical project from around that time, released a four song EP, In Your Face/Up Your Butt (De Stijl) which captured “the world’s greatest faggot heavy metal band” at its transgressive best in a song such as “I Like Marines.”
By Gregg Shapiro